Watch: The story behind the Imperial State Crown
👑 What crown will King Charles wear after the coronation? The Imperial State Crown
💰 How much is the crown worth? Estimated between £3bn and £5bn
⚖️ How much does the crown weigh? 1.06kg
After the official service, the St Edward’s Crown – the headpiece used to actually crown the king, and heaviest of the three coronation crowns at 2.23kg – is swapped out for the Imperial State Crown, also known as the Crown of State, and is also used for ceremonial occasions, such as the state opening of parliament.
The current Imperial State Crown was originally created for the coronation of the Queen’s father, King George VI, in 1937 but the crown has existed in various forms since the 15th century.
About 10 versions of the crown have existed since the restoration of the monarchy in 1660, with the latest version based on the one made for Queen Victoria in 1838.
Queen Elizabeth II then wore the Imperial State Crown at her own coronation at Westminster Abbey on 2 June 1953, just as Charles will at his coronation in May.
What are the jewels in the King's Imperial State crown?
The crown is made of pure gold and set with 2,868 diamonds, 269 pearls, 17 sapphires, 11 emeralds and four rubies, but it also contains some of the most famous individual jewels in the Crown jewels collection.
The Stuart Sapphire, a 104-carat stone set at the back of the crown, is thought to have belonged to King Charles II and may have originated from Asia.
The Imperial State Crown also includes the Cullinan II diamond, a 317.4-carat diamond from the original Cullinan diamond, the largest gem-quality rough diamond ever found., It was originally discovered in Cullinan, South Africa, in 1905.
Meanwhile, the St Edward’s Sapphire, an octagonal rose-cut sapphire that sits in the centre of the cross at the top of the crown, is older than any other gemstone in the royal collection and is thought to have belonged to Edward the Confessor, one of the last Anglo-Saxon English kings.
Lastly, the Black Prince's Ruby, a 170-carat cabochon spinel, takes pride of place on the Imperial State Crown. It has been in the possession of England’s rulers since 1367, when it was given to Edward of Woodstock – who was known as the 'Black Prince', most likely because of his distinctive black armour and/or jousting shield.
Many of the gems in the Imperial State crown, in particular the Cullinan diamonds, are deemed controversial as they were taken from South Africa during the British Empire's occupation. A number of atrocities were committed by colonial forces at the time, most notably the use of concentration camps in the Anglo-Boer war between 1900-1902 as part of the infamous "scorched-earth" policy.
How much is the King's Imperial State crown worth?
The Imperial State Crown doesn’t have an exact value attached to it. Along with other Crown jewels the Imperial Orb and Imperial Sceptre, it has never been appraised.
Although the Imperial State Crown doesn’t have a precise value, due to its extensive list of priceless gems, jewellery experts estimate the crown to be worth an eye-watering £3bn to £5bn.
The Imperial State Crown also features a purple velvet cap with an ermine border and is lined with white silk and was present at every state opening of parliament, worn by the monarch each year.
Even on occasions when the late Queen Elizabeth could not wear it, or on the one occasion that her son, Charles, attended in her place, the crown was still present at the state opening.
The crown was also placed on the late Queen's coffin as she lay-in-state for four days before her funeral in September 2022.
The coffin was draped with the Royal Standard, a flag representing the four kingdoms of the UK which is also used at royal residences when the sovereign is home, with the crown placed on a cushion on top.
The original crown, created for King George VI was slightly taller than the one that his daughter wore during her 70-year reign.
The crown was adjusted for Queen Elizabeth's coronation in 1953. The head size was reduced and the arches were lowered by 25 mm (one inch) to give it a more feminine appearance, according to Anna Keay, author of The Crown Jewels.
“You see, it’s much smaller isn’t it?” Queen Elizabeth told the BBC in 2018 during a look back at her coronation.
“It would have been up to about there when my father wore it,” she continued, pointing to the top of the diamond-encrusted orb on top.
Elizabeth also called the crown “very unwieldy” due to its weight, adding that she couldn’t put her head down to read a speech, but had to bring the speech to her eye line.
“Fortunately, my father and I had the same sort of shaped head, but once you put it on it stays,” she added. “It just reigns itself.”
Will Charles wear the Imperial State Crown?
Charles will follow in his late mother and grandfather's footsteps by using the Imperial State Crown in his own coronation, but it remains to be seen whether it will have such a prominent role for state and ceremonial events given its history.
The King will not be able to wear any of the crowns in the Crown jewels until his official ceremony.
As the crown was adjusted for Elizabeth from its original form, it's likely it will also be adjusted for the King for his coronation, much like the St Edward's Crown.